Plant and Microbial Biology
NOTE: for additional details to those presented below please consult the Handbook for Graduate Studies in Plant and Microbial Biology
1. Program elements common to MSc and PhD degrees
Each student’s scholarly activities, thesis research and progress are overseen by a Supervisory Committee. The thesis supervisor is responsible for recommending a committee to the Graduate Office soon after a student arrives, and it comprises the supervisor or co-supervisors and two other faculty members. Committees must meet twice during a student’s first graduate year – by mid-December and by May 31 – and at least once per year in subsequent year’s (by mid-December during the second MSc year). At least one day before each meeting the student must give committee members a brief written progress report of work completed and an outline of future plans. After the meeting a form is signed by each committee member and the student may add comments, sign the form and submit it along with a copy of the progress report to the Graduate Office. To be eligible for graduate funding students must have their required supervisory meetings for the academic year by May 31.
All students are required to take graduate courses (see below for specific requirements by degree). Courses taken should be selected in consultation with the supervisory committee and may be taken in Cell and Systems Biology or other departments. CSB adheres to grading practices that are set by the School of Graduate Studies - passing grades include only A+, A, A-, B+, B and B-.
Original research and the completion and defence of a thesis are requirements for students in both the Master’s and Doctoral programs.
Attendance at eighty percent of the departmental seminars is required by all students in Plant & Microbial Biology. The seminar series is composed of invited guest lecturers, Ph.D. proposal exams, and Ph.D. departmental thesis evaluations. Students at the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses may substitute their own seminar series for the St. George series, but must attend at least three of the Ph.D. proposal exams and departmental thesis evaluations downtown. The number of seminars that students are required to attend will be established and announced in September.
2. MSc Program Requirements
Residency, Financial Support and Courses:
The School of Graduate Studies residency requirement for the M.Sc. program is one year of full time study. The time limit for completion of the program is five years but the expected time to completion is two years. Students are required to pay full fees for every year in which they register in the M.Sc. program. A minimum stipend will be provided for up to 24 months (see Financial Support and Scholarships). Students are required to take a one-semester graduate course (or equivalent), preferably in the first year.
An M.Sc. thesis exam is held at the completion of a student’s degree program. The exam committee comprises the supervisor, one examiner who is on the advisory committee and one from CSB who is not on the supervisory committee. Membership of the exam committee is determined by the supervisor and student and must be approved by the Graduate Office. The chair of the exam committee, who directs the examination but does not normally participate in questioning, is appointed by the Graduate Office. Once the exam committee is approved the student and supervisor should consult with examiners and recommend an exam date to the Graduate Office. The Graduate Administrator will finalize the exam date and time, book the exam room and circulate the formal announcement to participants. Students are responsible for booking their own audiovisual equipment needs. The thesis supervisor must declare that the thesis is ready for examination by completing an "Approval of Thesis" form. This form and a copy of the thesis must be given to all examiners at least two weeks before the examination date.
The examination will be based on the assessment of the thesis containing the results of an original research study and the ability of the candidate to defend the thesis and show a mastery of the research topic. The candidate must demonstrate that he/she understands the topic, can defend the data and the conclusions presented in the thesis, and can place the findings in a general context. Each examiner is required to submit a written assessment of the thesis on the appropriate form to the Graduate Office one day prior to the examination. If one or more of the reports are negative the exam committee Chair will cancel the examination. At the end of the examination it is determined whether the student has passed or failed, and if the former whether the thesis requires editorial corrections, minor corrections, or minor modifications. The student is given copies of the non-confidential portions of the examiners’ reports and the exam chair must submit a confidential report of the exam to the Graduate Office. In the event of a failure, one retake is allowed and it must occur within two to six months.
3. Transfer from MSc to PhD
Students wishing to initiate a transfer from a MSc to a PhD program should write a letter briefly outlining the reasons why the transfer is requested to the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies and have it co-signed by their supervisor. This should be submitted to the Graduate Office well before the end of the student’s first year in the program. The student will then register in the Ph.D. program at the start of their second year in graduate school and the PhD proposal exam (see PhD Requirements below) will be held within 16-20 months of first beginning graduate studies. The outcome of a Ph.D. proposal exam will be either pass and proceed in the P.D program or fail and complete an MSc by the end of 24 months. Students changing their mind about a PhD, and following a meeting with their supervisor and the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies, may write up an MSc at any time before or after the PhD proposal. Transfer students are required to take three half courses and any course work completed prior to the transfer may count toward this total. The minimum stipend is guaranteed for a total of five years, starting with the date of first entry in the graduate program.
4. PhD Program Requirements
Residency, Financial Support and Courses:
The PhD program is expected to take four years of full time study (five if entered directly from a BSc). The School of Graduate Studies minimum residency requirement for the Ph.D. program is one year (or three consecutive terms) of full time study. The time limit for completion of the program is 6 years and the expected time to completion is four (or five) years. Students pay full fees for every year in which they register in the program with the exception of their final year when they may pay monthly fees. A minimum stipend will be guaranteed for up to four years (five if direct entry from the BSc) and partial support will be provided for the fifth (or sixth) year (see Financial Support and Scholarships). Ph.D. students must complete three one-semester graduate courses with the first course taken in their first year. It is expected that many Ph.D. students will continue to participate in seminar courses after their minimum requirement is completed.
All students must pass a PhD Proposal Exam within 16-20 months of first registration. The exam is to ensure that the study has every expectation of being completed within the time indicated and that the student has sufficient knowledge in the field to pursue the proposed research. The Proposal Exam consists of a public presentation in the Departmental Seminar Series followed by an in camera examination. The exam committee consists of six members chosen by the student and supervisor and approved by the Graduate Office: the supervisor, two members of the supervisory committee (usually from the Program in Plant & Microbial Biology), one other PMB faculty member, one faculty member from another graduate department who is not a member of the student’s advisory committee, and a chair appointed by the Graduate Office.
Two weeks before the Proposal Exam the student must provide committee members with a written report of 5,000-7,000 words exclusive of figures, tables and references outlining the conceptual framework of the study, objectives, methods intended and preliminary data if available. The public presentation is approximately 40 minutes followed by 20 minutes for questioning. The exam committee then holds an in camera question and discussion period followed by a vote requiring agreement among four of the five voting members. Possible decisions are pass, fail (termination of program) or incomplete (process repeated within three months with a pass/fail decision).
Departmental Thesis Evaluation:
Ph.D. candidates must present their thesis for evaluation to the department as a whole and to a departmental evaluation committee before proceeding to the School of Graduate Studies Final Oral Examination. The departmental evaluation must be held six to eight weeks prior to the final oral examination and consists of a public presentation in the Departmental Seminar Series followed by an in camera examination. The exam committee comprises the Supervisor, other members of the Supervisory Committee, and a Chair appointed by the Graduate Office. The completed thesis should be submitted to all exam committee members at least two weekends before the exam date, and the thesis supervisor must submit a signed copy of the "Approval of Thesis" form to the Graduate Office and all exam committee members. Members of the departmental committee must read the thesis with a view to determining whether it is of a high scientific standard and make recommendations that they believe will improve the quality of the thesis and help prepare the candidate for the Final Oral Examination. The student will be informed of the outcome of the evaluation by the Chair: pass with the recommendation to proceed to the Final Oral Examination or fail with the recommendation to complete more research and/or significant revisions.
Final Oral Examination:
The Final Oral Examination is conducted by the School of Graduate Studies. The exam committee consists of the supervisor, the external examiner, two PMB faculty from the Supervisory Committee and two PMB faculty who are not from the Supervisory Committee. One member not from the Supervisory Committee will act as the internal examiner. The School of Graduate Studies provides a Chair for the exam. A quorum of five, excluding the Chair, is required. Recommendations for the membership of the committee are made by the thesis supervisor and submitted for approval to the Graduate Office. Suggestions of three potential external examiners who hold at least Associate or Full Professorship in a department with a doctoral program, who are of high academic standing, who have a proven record of graduate student supervision and who are at “arm’s length” from the supervisor and PhD candidate must be submitted to the Graduate Office fro approval. The supervisor is responsible for travel costs of the external examiner that exceed the $500 covered by the Graduate School. The Graduate Office will help the supervisor and student set a date for the examination and will forward the information on the examining committee, the external examiners, an abstract of the thesis and one copy of the thesis to the School of Graduate Studies for approval. The student must provide all examiners with a thesis copy at least six weeks in advance of the examination date (except the external examiner who will receive a copy from the Graduate School). Approximately two weeks before the exam the external the student and all committee members will receive a copy of the external examiner’s appraisal of the thesis and the internal appraisal. At the end of the examination the committee votes for acceptance with minor corrections or minor modification, or for adjournment.